Having first met at an NYC open mic cypher back in 2009, rapper PremRock and producer Willie Green realized they had a common vibe, then decided to explore that vibe by collaborating together on music. It’s an old story for hip-hop, but sometimes the old stories are the best ones you’ve ever heard. It’s not hard to imagine any of these famous hip-hop duos met the same way: Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Show & A.G., Guru & Premier, et cetera. It’s expected that dope producers and emcees meet up through common friends or hip-hop events, but what’s rare is when those chance meetings lead to long-term partnerships that produce memorable results destined to reach the masses globally.
At the outset I admit ignorance of both artists before a few of the singles from their self-titled “PremRock & Willie Green” started to leak out – songs like “Had to Be Me” featuring C-Rayz Walz and Soul Khan. Those tracks were type nice to be sure, but with so many voices on the track it was hard to get a real grip on whether PremRock was type nice on his own. Thankfully “Diary of a Dreamer” paints a much clearer picture as Prem gets the time to shine on his own. (The cover art shown above is for the single, which you can also download by clicking on it.) Willie Green’s backdrop is light and whimsical, but Prem’s seriously lyrical:
“I in-herited this, we all inherit the trouble
Although we share in the struggle I live in marital bliss
My, character traits have made their share of mistakes
But I sharecrop with my folk to keep a share on our plates
I in-terrogate fate like, ‘Sir – I don’t approve’
I keep it cyclical, if you were un-aware of the shape
My thoughts outside the box get each corner erased
If you’re not from within my circle stay from outside of my space!
I can take whatever’s dished; trust me on this
Life’s only a bitch if you can’t study her hips
So I developed a penmanship, based on bein a gentleman
and jot down the notes on where she likes to be kissed”
Well done Prem. There are multiple aspects of his flow that are appealing, not the least of which is the obvious amount of thought he put into crafting a well written verse that reads like poetry but raps like hip-hop. He’s also got a natural sense of timing on the mic that only develops over years of hard work and practice, knowing which syllables to pause on for emphasis, realizing just when and where to change his vocal tone to keep your attention focused. The word play also heightens your awareness of his verbals, as the rap becomes akin to geometry and math, without taking on the sometimes boring scholarly qualities either one can have. It’s both intellectual and interesting, a difficult task for any rapper to master, which instantly puts Prem in an upper echelon of emcees.
The conundrum as I listen to their self-titled album is that it’s arguably too early in his career to compare a newcomer like Prem to veteran skilled lyricists like Talib Kweli, Common or Nas but it’s just as hard to ignore the talents he displays. A lot of rappers this good can get lost in the shuffle without a producer their equal, but Willie Green proves himself every bit up to the task. “Kill Your Idols” is a war chant backdrop that makes the most out of the smallest elements, layering them up in a way that’s simultaneously tribal and modern, as Prem advocates crossing off rappers that you once looked up to as you realize they’re not dope any more. The funky horns and synths of “You Can’t Go Home Again” seem to melt together and become indistinguishable as P rides the beat. “Move” is aptly named as the echoing drums make you want to tap your foot, snap your fingers, or just do SOMETHING. “Jogger” is so mellow you might miss the rap by soaking it in, but that would be a mistake.
“You look like a social worker
Not that social workers got a look, but
It looks like you care, about things bigger
… than wardrobe and hair
Like other people’s welfare, well-being, health care
Is that sexy? To me, hell yeah!
… Sorry if I seem a bit neurotic
You know how it is, with these artistic kids
You’re like a +Bonita Apple-Obama+
You probably think I’m just a charmer
Well – kinda, sorta, kinda”
Now that’s some real macking skills, the kind you won’t get from a man who sees a beautiful woman and addresses her “HEY BITCH!” or “Whassup baby?” I’m not saying those types of responses aren’t warranted under certain types of circumstances, but Prem’s way of getting the attention of this jogger is to be flattering without being a cliche, while simultaneously making himself more interesting to her by being a little mysterious. No reality show on VH1 ever taught would-be Romeos how to do it this well, and I’m guessing Prem doesn’t have much trouble getting a date on Friday nights when he wants to go out to the club.
If there’s one drawback to PremRock & Willie Green, and it’s the only major one I can come up with, it’s that “PremRock & Willie Green” just doesn’t do much to sell them as a title. There’s not anything wrong with being self-titled, it’s just that as relatively new artists trying to make their name, it couldn’t have hurt to have come up with a concept for the album as a whole. It’s not like Prem lacks for concepts anyway – the brother has concepts for days. Five more minutes to think of one for the album couldn’t hurt, but you’ll still want to check this one out.